The Longing

The Longing

There are two kinds of gamers (I’m oversimplifying here): those who stick with one game until complete, and those who jump from game to game as the spirit moves them. I envy the former: seeing something through and realizing the full fruits of one’s expenditure. I am unfortunately the latter: someone who values novelty over achievement which pushes me from game to game before I manage to get anywhere near the end of a single game.

The envy component is always at the forefront of my mind, not just because I feel like I should be getting more out of my investment. I remember when I played Ultima Online, I would obsess over the game during the day (at work, with my friend who also played), and when I got home I’d log in. It started on dial-up, and then I got broadband and it was a night and day difference. I’d spend hours playing, comfortable in my chair at my desk, only logging off when I realized that time had escaped me. Of course, those were the times of less responsibility, where I really just needed to not get fired during the day, and not piss off my fiance once I was home.

But shouldn’t we want to achieve that kind of feeling even now? Why do something that doesn’t make you happy when you’re actually doing that thing? But what else in our lives do we work on piecemeal, that we need to put on hold for the majority of time as we take care of real-world responsibilities? Books are one example, but books are pretty portable and there’s no stigma attached to reading at work during your lunch break in Corporate America (or elsewhere). These are hobbies, of course, something we do in our spare time to wind down, but who would take on restoring an old car, only to leave it half way finished in order to start restoring a new car? Who knits a sweater and stops at a sweater vest to start on a scarf? Well, maybe that’s a bad example…

I’ve got a whole stable of games that will take a long time to learn, and then a much longer time to play, like anything from Paradox (Crusader Kings II, Sengoku, and all those world domination games). I look at those games and think “damn, I’d love to be able to master that, to be able to sit down on a rainy Saturday afternoon, with no responsibilities, no work that needs attention, and just relax and enjoy myself.” But I can’t. Most of the time these days, regardless of the game, it’s been like racing the clock: “If I start at 8PM on a weekday, I have maybe two hours of solid playtime before I reach that I’m-going-to-be-a-zombie-at-work-tomorrow stage unless I get to bed”, or “I’ve got an hour before the family needs to be somewhere on the weekend, so I’ll log in and tend to busy-work until I get yelled at that it’s time to leave.”

Boo hoo, right? It’s a consequence of aging, of being a productive adult, first world problems, and all that. These are hobbies, not lifestyles, and certainly not something that we should be focusing on to the exclusion of the majority of the rest of life. We (I, and possibly you) are past the point where sitting in front of the computer or console all day is really a good idea, anyway. Was it ever a good idea? I don’t know. I don’t regret the hours I’ve spent doing it, though I realize that at this stage of life any memory I have of those carefree days are more sepia-toned than 4k 3D reality. But it’s still an ideal of leisure that I long for when I find myself with free time.

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